Movie Review: 'Retreat'


Despite the recent proliferation of "home invasion" horror/thrillers, there is, of course, always room for a new one that brings a little something fresh to the table. One can plainly see how a production that takes place in only one location with only three actors would be appealing to actor and filmmaker alike, so in order to bring the audience into the equation, you need something just a little bit different than what we've seen in Straw Dogs, The Strangers, Them, or any of a dozen other examples. The recent indie offering known as Retreat does a decent enough job of tossing some enticing ingredients into the mix, and the final product feels a bit like a tight-fisted, if basic, indie thriller mixed with something a little more novel. It's most reminiscent of the recent, and damn good, Right At Your Door, if that helps at all.

First the simple stuff: Martin (Cillian Murphy) and Kate (Thandie Newton), recent survivors of a family tragedy, decide to visit their family cabin ... which is the only building located on a minuscule flyspeck of an island. We learn a little bit about Martin and Kate's family problems, and then their angst is interrupted by the arrival of an invader. Jack (Jamie Bell) is actually unconscious when he enters their house, but Martin and Kate go from concerned to worried to downright terrified once Jack comes around: (and here's the interesting wrinkle) he brings news of a horrific virus that is wiping out (presumably) all of London at that very moment. So not only do our unhappy couple have to contend with a scary stranger ... they also have no idea if he's telling the truth about the virus.

First-time writer/director Carl Tibbetts seems well aware that we've seen our share of home invasion tales by now, so he keeps the character development quick and clean, and as Act II picks up, he (with co-writer Janice Hallett) does an astute job of keeping us on our toes. Bell's performance is quite good, and the film benefits immeasurably from the character's schizophrenic nature; at one point we hate Jack, and five minutes later we're reconsidering our position. A fine score and some excellent cinematography keep Retreat from ever feeling cheap or basic, but it's the way the script plays with its little chestnut of ambiguity that makes it worth some attention.

Backed by some familiar but well-crafted moments of simple tension, three strong performances, and a few dark plot contortions just to keep us paying attention, Retreat is, if not a consistently excellent indie thriller, certainly more engaging than its basic premise might imply.